Fantasia Film Festival Review: THANATOMORPHOSE!!

Dead+Kayden+Rose+Copyright+B+LemireIn this life, we’re given one body.  Our body is our sanctuary, the one place that we’re truly safe and in control.  For the body to turn on us, to no longer give us a safe place to exist is one of the most terrifying thoughts imaginable.  Eric Falardeau’s film THANATOMORPHOSE is a depressingly grotesque story surrounding a woman with an ailment causing her body to deteriorate from the inside out.  There is no relief to the traumatic events the audience is forced to witness, and the breathtaking performance by Kayden Rose shows a dedication to her craft that borderlines as inspirational.

Used, abused, and exhausted, Kayden Rose’s character, a sculptor, awakes to find mysterious bruises on her body that seem to have spread out of nowhere.  With every passing moment, the bruises worsen and begin to destroy any sort of sanity she once possessed. As her body continues to deteriorate, we watch the demise of this woman from absolutely every angle. Physically, mentally, spiritually, and sexually, this woman is metaphorically (and literally) falling apart.

As an audience member, there were moments where I genuinely felt guilty for watching this woman so helplessly suffer.  Not only does this poor girl have to endure the pain of her body turning on her, but she also has a great deal of baggage attached in the form of a manipulative and abusive partner. The sign of a solid body horror film is the ability to find a balance between disgust and sympathy, and every moment of THANATOMORPHOSE forces one of the two emotions. Throughout the course of the film, we are given an intimate look into the life of this woman, and it feels uncomfortably voyeuristic at times.  Feeling like an intruder to this woman’s pain made her suffering feel all the more heart wrenching.

THANATOMORPHOSE is an incredibly naturally occurring film. Sex and nudity play a vital role in the film’s storyline, but it never feels pornographic or sexualized. Sex and nudity are shown as acts of nature, the way you would view animals mating on national geographic, and it helps to display the vulnerability of the character as well as the progression of her decaying form.  If the human form makes you uncomfortable, or adults engaging in sexual activity, this is not the film for you.  However, if you are mature enough to understand that it’s a realistic circumstance to walk around your apartment post-coitus, or to spontaneously perform fellatio simply because you ‘feel like it,’ the nudity won’t ever bother you as anything more than a canvas for the terror of this film.  There is a disgusting layer painted over the men in this film regarding how they view women in distress, and I couldn’t help but find it metaphorical.  Without divulging into feminism territory, the men in this movie are creeps.

Cinematically, Falardeau has an artistically beautiful film on his hands.  The film is eerily calm flowing, and occasionally jars into frantic shots that seem somewhat out of place, but at the same time, absolutely necessary.  His use of color is a little dark at times, but the gritty realness of the lighting makes the darkness forgivable.  The score at times seems a bit too intense for such a hauntingly simple concept, but ultimately, the sound aides the progression and compliments the film quite nicely.

On the surface, THANATOMORPHOSE is one of the most genuinely hard-to-watch films in my personal experience.  However, as a self-admitted phobic of anything to do with the body deteriorating without the owner’s consent, I should have known what I was getting myself into.  The special effects are very, very well executed and genuinely made my skin crawl.  Of course they’re not perfect, but the woman is naked (full frontal, the works) for a decent amount of the film, and there’s absolutely no room for error.  Breaking fingernails, buckets of bodily fluids, rotting flesh, and breaking skin all ooze their way onto the screen and elicit nausea. I’m not going to lie to you, this film is downright disgusting.  Gorehounds will surely get their fix, but unlike most gorefests that are “fun” and “entertaining,” the gore in this film is very real and uneasy to look at.  But the strangest thing about this movie, is that no matter how revolting the woman becomes, she never once repulses me.  No matter how decrepit she becomes, I still feel the urge to help her.

Body horror is a tricky beast to tackle, but Falardeau has successfully tamed it, and made it his own.  Not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, but I recommend THANATOMORPHOSE for lovers of body horror, gore, slow burns, and gritty realism.